Concerns raised over Canada’s enforcement of organic rules
By Joanne Levasseur, Vera-Lynn Kubinec and Holly Moore, CBC News Posted: Jan 10, 2014
As much as eight per cent of organic produce tested by Canadian inspectors has so much pesticide residue that experts say there is a strong indication synthetic chemicals were deliberately used, a CBC News investigation has found.
Health Canada sets a maximum residue limit (MRL) for food products, representing the most that is expected to remain on food when a pesticide is used according to label directions.
The agency that inspects food says residue levels that have more than five per cent of that maximum level “are considered to imply the deliberate use of a pesticide.”
In an analysis of two years of testing conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), CBC News found eight per cent of organic fresh fruit and vegetables would be in the category that the agency says would imply deliberate pesticide use.
Miles McEvoy, deputy administrator for the National Organic Program in the U.S., said residues exceeding five per cent of the maximum limit need to be scrutinized.
“You’re going to want to look again specifically at the pesticide, at the levels, but yes, if you find over five per cent of the MRLs that is a good indication that there was some direct application rather than drift,” McEvoy said.
U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations prohibit produce with pesticide residues exceeding five per cent from being sold with an organic label.
“The concept there is that organic products shouldn’t have residues on them because they’re not grown with the use of these synthetic pesticides, but occasionally there may be some residues on a crop from drift,” McEvoy said.
In Canada, no such restrictions apply.
The CFIA said it did not prevent the eight per cent of produce that exceeded the threshold from being sold as organic because it did not represent a health risk.
The official limits vary between the two countries.
“There are however alarm bells that can go off, or red flags,” said Matthew Holmes of the Canada Organic Trade Association, in reaction to the findings by CBC News.